A Streetcar Named Desire

“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” 

There are few movies that are timeless. Even though a black and white drama, A Streetcar Named Desire brings the viewer right inside of hot and tumultuous 1950’s New Orleans. And the final product still affects even the most modern mind. Garnishing 12 Academy Award Nominations and winning 4 (including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Art Direction), this film is a classic and a must see for those who truly enjoy cinema.  May I introduce Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, Karl Malden as Mitch and Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” 

”The film adaptation was fortunate enough to include almost the entire original cast that appeared on stage, even the director, Elia Kazan. Vivien Leigh replaced Jessica Tandy for the film adaptation. Blanche DuBois first steps off “that rattle track street car” in 1947 on stage. “When she got there she met the brute Stan and the side of New Orleans she hardly knew existed…Blanche, who wanted so much to stay a lady…” Her stay with her sister and brother-in-law begins to turn into an unpleasant turn of events. Her Old-South aristocratic ways of life collide with the working Industrial middle class that Stan represents. And as Blanche’s tarnished past comes to light, her world begins to fall apart. 

I can rest assured that this film will never be remade, at least in my lifetime. This is due to the impeccable acting and perfect casting. Even though some may argue about Vivien Leigh’s performance, and even I can make a list of pros and cons about it, but she undeniably captures the fragility and that Southern flair that is essentially Blanche. However, no one will ever want to or be foolish enough to try to fill the shoes of Stanley Kowalski the way that Marlon Brando did. There have been many revivals of the play and even a television adaptation, but the silver screen rightfully belongs to Brando. As I like to say, this is a product of when movies were movies. Not to mention that famous scene…HEY STTTEEEELLLLLAAAAA!!! They just don’t make men like that anymore. 

The 1950’s was a time of censorship, and strict censorship at that. What makes this a true classic is because it’s a rather historic film. Even though some compromises were made in its adaptation and original release, director Elia Kazan challenged the censors of the time, refusing to make changes that would affect the very essence of the story. Go through the original play and the film adaptation. It’s very interesting to see what is suitable for a live play and what is suitable for the screen (you could, apparently, get away with a lot more on the stage). And as you watch the film, the sexual tension that is built up very believably and very effectively through dialogue, musical cues, cinematography and, of course, the subtle , yet perfect choices made by the cast. Because of its implication rather than the modern day in-your-face approach, the film became even more scandalous through its performance and artistic set up.  

In other words, see this movie. It’s up there with Casablanca, Citizen Kane, All About Eve, and all those other infamous and famous flicks. A timeless work of art, it is also pieces of history, changing the way films were made by not compromising artistic vision and challenging the censorship and ethics code of its time.